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Eli Drinkwitz’s debut season comes down to these four games

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Eli Drinkwitz has already proven his recruiting chops. There are four games on the schedule that will determine how Mizzou fans view his on-field coaching in 2020.

Missouri v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

There’s a famous Tommy Lasorda baseball saying that gets quoted a lot throughout Spring Training. It goes a little something like this:

“No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are, you’re going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.”

In other words, everyone wins 60 games, loses 60 games and it’s about what you do in the other 42 that makes the difference. There’s some truth in it. Just about every team in baseball tends to fall somewhere between 60 and 100 wins. It’s a wide range, sure, but that’s where those 42 games factors in.

That saying rarely applies for college football, but it might actually be the perfect summation of Mizzou’s 2020 schedule.

The Blogfather, Bill Connelly, posted his Missouri football review/preview on Twitter on Tuesday. It included this gem breaking down the Tigers’ upcoming schedule.

Mizzou’s schedule sets up with four borderline “must-win’s” vs. Central Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Eastern Michigan and Arkansas, four “toss-ups” vs. BYU, Kentucky, Mississippi State and UL-Lafayette, and four “expected losses” vs. South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.

College football rarely sets up like Tommy Lasorda’s baseball quote, but that just so happens to be the case for Mizzou in the upcoming season. That setup should help us, as fans, judge Drinkwitz’s coaching job this season.

The Tigers should win a bare minimum of four games in 2020. That’s what the data suggests, at least. That would be the case if Gary Pinkel, Barry Odom, Blake Anderson or Drinkwitz were the head coach.

The question is how many games above that four game minimum expectation can Drinkwitz win? Odom’s downfall at MU was his inability to exceed expectations, and his tendency to instead fall below that bare minimum threshold. On the other hand, Pinkel almost always met preseason expectations with the occasional ability to surprise with spike seasons (see: 2013).

Does Drinkwitz have that same ability?

He’s passed every offseason test thrown his way. He has the ability to connect with fans and create a buzz around the program. His recruiting chops have impressed even the most optimistic Mizzou fans. His leadership during a time of unrest in our country impressed the heck out of me.

The one question we still don’t have an answer to is the question that matters the most: Can he coach when his team hits the field?

There’s no way to learn that in the offseason.

The Tigers’ unique schedule should go a long way toward giving us answers throughout the 2020 season.

(If we have one).